Do I Have to Claim My College Age Daughter in My Tax Returns?

Many taxpayers have questions regarding the eligibility requirements for including dependents on their tax returns. In most cases, it depends on the residency of the dependent, your relationship and the dependent's age. Once you determine that you are eligible to claim a dependent, it’s time to determine whether it is in your best interest to do so. Fortunately, deciding whether or not it is mandatory to claim your college-age daughter on your tax return is relatively simple.

  1. Exemption Defined

    • To claim a person means to list him or her as an exemption on your return. Each exemption you add to your return lowers your overall tax liability. For example, the exemption amount in 2009 is $3,650. If you claim yourself and your daughter, your total exemption amount is $7,300, thereby lowering your taxable income by that amount.

      The government does not require that you claim any exemptions on your tax return. If you decide not to claim a dependent whom you are technically eligible to claim, the IRS will not penalize you for the oversight. You will, however, be missing out on an opportunity to reduce your tax liability and thus lower the amount you owe or increase the amount of your refund.

    Eligibility Requirements

    • If your college-age daughter lived with you at least six months plus one day out of the year, you provided more than half of her support, and she is younger than 19 (if not in college) or 24 (if in college), then you have met the IRS requirements to claim her on your tax return. In addition, if your daughter is in college, you could be missing out on additional deductions for tuition and fees by choosing not to claim her on your tax return.
      However, the decision of whether to claim her is totally within your discretion. The only instance in which you wouldn’t be allowed to claim her were if she had already claimed herself on her return. This often happens when a teenager has a job in which federal taxes were withheld from his or her check and he or she files a return to recoup the money.

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